Strategic CIO // IT Strategy
Commentary
6/6/2014
07:00 AM
David Wagner
David Wagner
Commentary
Connect Directly
Twitter
RSS
E-Mail
50%
50%

Geekend: Sarcasm Detector Wanted

US Secret Service wants a bucket for those times you are dripping with sarcasm.

and the beliefs of the person being sarcastic?

I actually think the Secret Service would do better with Facebook than Twitter, but the key is going to be in creating large databases of prior posts for context. If, for example, a known Democrat who has posted dozens of links supporting healthcare reform were to post, "I just love the GOP's latest attempt at repealing Obamacare," the sarcasm would be fairly obvious. But outside of the other posts for context, there's no real way of determining it. Sure, you can guess from the word "latest," which implies knowledge that the Republicans have attempted it more than 30 times. But you can't be certain.

So what we're really getting at here is compiling a lot of personal data about people and charting their statements against historical statements in order to establish probabilities, and that's not going to fly with people worried about privacy.

So does the sarcasm detector die there? Heck no. Even if the government realizes it can't be done, you know who can do it? Facebook and Twitter. I want a sarcasm and humor plug-in for social media.

What do you do when you type something funny into Facebook but you aren't sure the fact that you're joking will come through in the text? You add an emoticon or "jk," right?

What if Facebook did it for you? And what if they did it with a series of fantastic emoticons, ranging from a simple smiley face to an elaborate set of beautiful emoticons like these. There are 70 cat emoticons on this list alone. Clearly, there's a major difference between this cat (=^.^=) and this cat (=^_^=). And I can't even make some of the cats without going to a special characters menu. That's too much time for a Facebook emoticon. Let Facebook do it for me.

OK, the emoticons are a little frivolous, but how many friendships have been strained by someone's inability to make out a joke posted on a social network? If Facebook identified a joke for you with accuracy before your friend had to explain it, maybe there will be a lot less unfriending in the world.

Maybe, eventually, a Facebook or Twitter algorithm could even help you rewrite your posts to make them funnier.

Even if you find this whole thing frivolous, it's the perfect test bed for doing better at natural language processing. Whether it's the Secret Service or Facebook or Twitter that actually cracks this code, there's no better way to start than to figure out the nuances of social media.

What do you think? Does the notion that government types are trying to figure out humor scare you? If they do figure it out, do you think it'll improve their public service announcements? Can they do it without invading people's privacy? Would you enjoy it if Facebook started helping you with your own humor? Will computers ever truly understand natural language? Comment below.

Our InformationWeek Elite 100 issue -- our 26th ranking of technology innovators -- shines a spotlight on businesses that are succeeding because of their digital strategies. We take a close at look at the top five companies in this year's ranking and the eight winners of our Business Innovation awards, and offer 20 great ideas that you can use in your company. We also provide a ranked list of our Elite 100 innovators. Read our InformationWeek Elite 100 issue today.

David has been writing on business and technology for over 10 years and was most recently Managing Editor at Enterpriseefficiency.com. Before that he was an Assistant Editor at MIT Sloan Management Review, where he covered a wide range of business topics including IT, ... View Full Bio
Previous
2 of 2
Next
Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Comments
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
<<   <   Page 2 / 7   >   >>
kstaron
50%
50%
kstaron,
User Rank: Ninja
6/19/2014 | 10:54:18 AM
Intent detector
I was just talking with a friend who wanted to be witty in an email but was afraid it would come off wrong. I think we could all use an "intent" detector sometimes. I have sent introductory emails to clients and actually stated, please assume any and all words in any of my emails are meant to help me help you and come with the best of intention. Think of my tone as upbeat and friendy. Becasue sometimes I have to tell clients something they don'r want to hear and without tone in email it's that much harder. with twitter it's even worse. you got a character limit and a whole host of people who forget that real people are attached to those twitter accounts and not some machine on the other end. Trying to protect through tweet monitoring is going to cause a lot of headaches.
nomii
50%
50%
nomii,
User Rank: Ninja
6/18/2014 | 3:09:07 PM
Scary
I am really worried about the extent of humor being allowed on the social media. Now as per the situation prevailing, nothing can be taken lightly. We need to define a fine line between humor and whats not. But we need to understand that is that fineline is drawn by its thinker. I agree that the understanding of intent is the biggest concern.
David Wagner
50%
50%
David Wagner,
User Rank: Strategist
6/16/2014 | 12:48:49 PM
Re: Sarcasm Detector Wanted
@zerox203- I get what you are saying. There is a real danger in picking the wrong target when building these things. And certainly crime predicting intelligence would be awesome. 

The question I have is which comes first? Social media scanning or crime intelligence?

I would think social media scanning would be a part of an crime prediction software. And sarcasm detection would be a part of any social media scanning.
zerox203
50%
50%
zerox203,
User Rank: Ninja
6/16/2014 | 12:43:43 PM
Re: Sarcasm Detector Wanted
There's a famous notion about how computers can't play the traditional Japanese game of Go. Supposedly, it's not because the game is too complicated, but because it's too simple. You can place a piece anywhere on the board, at any time. Apparently, that's too little complexity for any computer to derive a winning strategy based on. Now, I have no idea if that anecdote is true or not (don't there exist Go video games?), but I think it's very relevant to the discussion at hand. At a certain point, do we run up against a wall of what computers simply can't do? Or are there endless possibilities, some of which we just haven't unlocked yet?

Maybe the secret service needs to go back a couple of steps and get a human sarcasm detector first, though. Sitting out in front of your grandfather's house for a letter he sent years ago, especially considering his age at the time, was more or less a waste of taxpayer dollars. We ought to work on automated criminal detection in the sense that the volume of tweet (etc.) are too much for humans to read... but we still ought to have a system of humans with common sense to back it up. The debacle with the NYPD twitter campaign you wrote about back on E2 is a great example of this problem and how it goes both ways. Anyway, here's to four more years of Geekend!
Angelfuego
50%
50%
Angelfuego,
User Rank: Moderator
6/15/2014 | 8:37:00 PM
Re: Sadly we do need this
Believe it or not, Siri is kind of witty.
batye
50%
50%
batye,
User Rank: Ninja
6/13/2014 | 3:49:49 PM
Re: Sadly we do need this
Dave it would be funny, but I would started worried....
SaneIT
IW Pick
100%
0%
SaneIT,
User Rank: Ninja
6/13/2014 | 7:53:05 AM
Re: Sadly we do need this
You mean like if I had taken "Clippy" to be sarcastic, which I did quite often.  "I see you're trying to type a letter."  
David Wagner
50%
50%
David Wagner,
User Rank: Strategist
6/12/2014 | 6:30:19 PM
Re: Sadly we do need this
@Thomas- I don't know. I think I'd be entertained by the first time my computer mocked me for my browser history. :)
Thomas Claburn
50%
50%
Thomas Claburn,
User Rank: Author
6/12/2014 | 4:39:53 PM
Re: Sadly we do need this
>Somehting I wish I would have mentioned in the article-- you know what comes after a sarcasm detector, right? A sarcasm GENERATOR.

As if we needed more of it.
David Wagner
50%
50%
David Wagner,
User Rank: Strategist
6/12/2014 | 11:49:39 AM
Re: Sadly we do need this
@SaneIT- You are right. I suspect when the guy said, "I'm going out on the wing" someone said, "I'm going to sprout wings and fly out there instead." :)

And you are right. That's exactly why we need one. For better or worse we're in this together now so we better learn to understand each other.

Somehting I wish I would have mentioned in the article-- you know what comes after a sarcasm detector, right? A sarcasm GENERATOR.
<<   <   Page 2 / 7   >   >>
Transformative CIOs Organize for Success
Transformative CIOs Organize for Success
Trying to meet today’s business technology needs with yesterday’s IT organizational structure is like driving a Model T at the Indy 500. Time for a reset.
Register for InformationWeek Newsletters
White Papers
Current Issue
InformationWeek Must Reads Oct. 21, 2014
InformationWeek's new Must Reads is a compendium of our best recent coverage of digital strategy. Learn why you should learn to embrace DevOps, how to avoid roadblocks for digital projects, what the five steps to API management are, and more.
Video
Slideshows
Twitter Feed
InformationWeek Radio
Archived InformationWeek Radio
A roundup of the top stories and community news at InformationWeek.com.
Sponsored Live Streaming Video
Everything You've Been Told About Mobility Is Wrong
Attend this video symposium with Sean Wisdom, Global Director of Mobility Solutions, and learn about how you can harness powerful new products to mobilize your business potential.